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Know the difference: Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing 

Know the difference: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing

An important part of any academic discussion is citations. It highlights the existing works on a particular topic, enabling readers to track relevant research1 to develop their arguments. Though the function of citation is simple, the learning process of correctly citing other articles can be challenging. There is an increased possibility of plagiarism if you incorporate others’ work or ideas without full or correct acknowledgment. As a research student or early researcher, you will come across rules for paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting in your research articles. These are essential strategies for citing existing research work to support or challenge your writings or arguments. You’ll use a combination of these in your assignments, dissertation, or research papers, so understanding their differences is important.  

In simple terms, the difference between these three terms lies in the proximity of your writing to the source writing, but their use could be hindered for the following reasons.2  

  • Low linguistic ability: limit the power to define, summarize, evaluate, and contrast existing literature.  
  • Unfamiliarity with the language of citations: repeat citation patterns, integrate references incorrectly, or misplace reporting verbs. 
  • Lack of awareness of the importance of referencing: Under referencing 

This article compares and discusses paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting to help you become more comfortable with their usage. 

Quoting 

Quoting involves using a direct quotation, where you quote the author verbatim to define or describe specific concepts. Use double quotation marks at the beginning and end of the quote, and use the exact words from the original text. It is important to cite the original source and name the author, or else your work could be considered plagiarized as there is software that easily detects this. Also, it is better to avoid long passages as direct quotes; limit them to one or two sentences. Another point to remember is to limit their instances in your paper. Use words/phrases such as stated, in the words of, etc., to indicate that you are using the author’s exact words. Discuss its meaning or add more information as needed so that the quotes fit logically in your writing.  

Paraphrasing 

Unlike quoting, paraphrasing involves rewriting the text; the aim is to explain the original and relevant idea in one’s own words as a basis to build an argument. You can avoid words such as mentioned or stated for paraphrased text, but cite the source to ensure the reader knows that you are borrowing ideas. Paraphrasing can be challenging to most ESL students as it requires a good command of paraphrasing and considerable time and effort in choosing the right active or passive verbs to introduce a paraphrase.3 A common mistake to avoid is swapping words in the original sentence with their synonyms.  

In academic writing, the preference is towards paraphrasing because it shows your understanding of the literature and allows you to present relevant evidence to your readers. Also, as it incorporates your own academic voice, you can avoid getting flagged by plagiarism detection tools, such as Turnitin. 

Tips for effective paraphrasing 

  • Reformulate the sentence by changing the voice from active to passive or starting from a different point. 
  • Use quality sources to support your ideas.  
  • Remove irrelevant information from the source text. 
  • Combine information from multiple sentences. 
  • Use synonyms where they don’t distort the meaning. 

Summarizing 

When summarizing, you describe the original text without analyzing it. Your aim is to give your readers a broad overview of a subject. It involves placing the main ideas or points in your own words. Since your focus is on providing a general overview of the topic, summaries are often provided in the introductory paragraph. But remember to cite the summarized ideas. 

How to use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries 

  • Place all exact source words in quotation marks immediately. 
  • When summarizing or paraphrasing, the following strategies can be adopted to avoid looking at the source material and reduce the influence of the source text in your version: 
  • Read the text multiple times. This will help you understand the author’s main ideas and explain them to others. 
  • Write down the main phrases and ideas. This should be done without looking at the original sentence. 
  • Write in sentence form. Develop the summary or paraphrase based on your understanding of the source text. 
  • Compare with the original work. Rewrite your work if words/phrases are the same as in the original work or if the structure is very similar. 

The following is an example of a good paraphrase. It has the same ideas as the source text (quoted on the left) but with different wording and sentence structure. 

Original quote Paraphrased text 
“While the Sears Tower is arguably the greatest achievement in skyscraper engineering so far, it’s unlikely that architects and engineers have abandoned the quest for the world’s tallest building. The question is: Just how high can a building go?” (Bachman, 1990, p. 15).4  While the Sears Tower is a world marvel, it remains unknown how much higher skyscrapers of the future will rise. (Bachman, 1990, p. 15).  

Ways to avoid accidental plagiarism 

  • Use citations: Give credit where it is due.  
  • Organize and develop your own idea: Work out a balance between the ideas from other sources and your original ideas. Your writing should have originality and be concise. 
  • Use plagiarism checkers: There are a number of good plagiarism checker tools available online. Many online check tools also correct grammar errors, sentence structures, word choices, and subject-specific phrasing.  

Developing your paraphrasing and summarizing skills will take time. So, it is important that you set aside a lot of time to practice these skills to perfect your writing. 

References 

  1. Hunter, J. (2006). The importance of citation. URL: http://web grinnell edu/Dean/Tutorial/EUS/IC pdf (1204 2007)
  1. Elizalde Esain, A. (2017). English for Academic Purposes: The Challenge of Paraphrasing. 
  1. McKeown, K. (1983). Paraphrasing questions using given and new information. American Journal of Computational Linguistics, 9(1), 1-10. 
  1. Bachman, L. F. (1990). Fundamental considerations in language testing. Oxford University Press. 
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